Based on the 1999 cult comedy film starring Natasha Lyonne and drag icon Ru Paul which has become a queer classic, But I’m A Cheerleader: The Musical, written by Bill Augustin and Andrew Abrams, has been a decade in the making. The show marks the first brand-new musical to be staged at The Turbine Theatre in London.
Directed by Tania Azevedo, the show tells the story of Megan (Alice Croft), the all-American high school cheerleader who seemingly has the perfect life with her jock boyfriend and loving parents until she is shipped off to True Directions, a gay conversion camp after they suspect she is a lesbian. Spearheaded by the strict camp leader Mary Brown (Tiffany Graves), Megan undergoes a five-step programme with the hope that it’ll banish her sexual urges when she unexpectedly meets rebel Graham (Evie Rose Lane), who has other ideas.
Cheesy teen musical clichés run rampant here, reflected in David Shield’s candy-coloured set and Martha Godfrey’s blue and pink lighting which are underpinned with more sinister moments. The show does a great job of exploring serious issues such as conversion therapy and dealing with unsupportive parents. Despite the darker scenes, the overall effect was uplifting
The show has plenty of stellar songs, mixing pop, rock and gospel choir with cheerleading chants that’ll leave you bopping and swaying along to the music. Although some songs felt a little chaotic, the vocal talent of the cast made up for it. ‘Raise Your Flag’, a powerful fist-pumping anthem of tolerance and acceptance was a real highlight.
Newcomer Alice Croft did a great job of leading the show as the confused yet sweet Megan whilst Evie Rose Lane’s rock-style vocals as Graham blended with Croft’s sugar-sweet voice perfectly in their heartfelt duets.
Although there are no weak links when it comes to this cast, there were a few standout performers. Tiffany Graves was perfectly cast as camp founder Mary especially in her dramatic cleaning number ‘Perfect Little World’. Lemuel Knights was vocally strong and witty as “ex-homosexual” Mike, secretly in love with Mary’s son Rock, played by Edward Chitticks who stole the show with his masterful physical comedy. Aaron Teoh also wowed with an emotionally charged solo, transforming from timid camper to strong young man in a powerful song about wrestling (of all things).
Performers playing multiple roles is placed firmly at the forefront in this musical, we see Jodie Steele expertly alternating between playing Megan’s cheerleading best friend Kimberly and geeky Aussie camper Hilary, her one-liners and over the top expressions were a joy to watch. Jodie Jacobs and Oliver Brooks doubling as Megan’s religious parents and the confident gay couple who help her on her journey were also brilliant.
With such a hilarious and outrageous cast delivering an onslaught of jokes and one-liners, there was truly never a dull moment in this preppy production. But I’m A Cheerleader is a fun show filled with wit that’ll leaving you smiling, and you should grab tickets while you can.
But I’m A Cheerleader is showing at The Turbine Theatre until the 16th April. Tickets can be purchased here: https://www.theturbinetheatre.com/whats-on/but%2C-i’m-a-cheerleader
Reviewer: Gemma Prince
Reviewed: 2nd March 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★